New public artwork launches at Idea Store Whitechapel to mark 50th anniversary of Bangladesh


A new, giant sculpture titled BANGLA, has been unveiled at Idea Store Whitechapel as part of ongoing events to commemorate 50 years of the independence of Bangladesh. 

Devised by Tower Hamlets and Bangladesh based artist Ruhul Abdin, the illuminated installation is clad in fabric and is suspended in the façade of the Idea Store, where it will be on display until early 2022. 

Ruhul worked with 15 local British Bangladeshi Citizen Researchers to explore the significance of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War through collections held at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives as part of the Citizen UK Bangladesh 50 project, a collaboration between Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and the National Portrait Gallery, which began almost two years ago. 

The artwork is accompanied by a history exhibition, which tells the story of the Liberation War of 1971, the contribution of Tower Hamlets residents to the independence struggle, and the importance of the Bengali language then and now. 

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:  “Diversity is one of our borough’s greatest strengths and we are proud to celebrate the best of Bangladeshi culture throughout this 50th anniversary year. I hope that many people will visit the Whitechapel Idea Store to view the artwork and learn more about the significance of 1971 to Tower Hamlets past and present.” 

Cllr Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts & Brexit, Tower Hamlets Council said:  “The Bangladeshi War of Independence was a significant moment for thousands of East Enders even though none of its battles were fought here. 

“At the turn of the 1970s, as war loomed back home, Bengali communities across the UK lobbied and protested in support of the independence struggle. I am delighted that we are showcasing this important part of our history, in this creative art installation and exhibition at Idea Store Whitechapel.” 

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives on Citizen UK as part of our transformational Inspiring People project. By working in collaboration with organisations across the UK we hope to make our portraits accessible to many more people, enabling them to seek out their stories within our Collection.”

Launched at a special event on Thursday 2 September, the artwork will be on show until 2022. A public event will be held at Idea Store Whitechapel to mark the 50th anniversary of Victory Day in December 2021.

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